The lack of a standout player in the 2013/14 NBA rookie class prompted ESPN Insider analyst Kevin Pelton to devote digital column inches Wednesday to addressing the question of whether this class ranks as the worst in league annals. And while it turns out that it isn't--the 2000 NBA Draft class still holds that dubious distinction--the 2013 class still rates below replacement-level. According to Pelton, that means the league is worse off for having this class than it would have been "if no rookies had played at all."
Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo stands among one of 13 lottery picks from 2013, says Pelton, to rate at least one win above replacement-level. Though an inefficient offensive player, Oladipo has still managed to make an impact thanks to his athleticism and the sheer amount of time he sees: in 31.8 minutes per game, the Indiana product is averaging 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.6 steals on 41.4 percent shooting.
Prior to Wednesday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, one reporter asked Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn if he felt that Oladipo ever hit the so-called rookie wall.
"If he did, it was a short wall," said Vaughn. "He just jumped over it and kept on going. You give him a lot of credit this year for being able to keep his body in a condition to play. Guys just aren't used to it. And then keeping his mind right. Having some good days and some bad days and fighting through it."
Oladipo--who discussed at All-Star Weekend how he's dealing with fatigue--may have avoided, or at the very least hurdled, that wall, but the second overall pick in June nonetheless looks like a longshot to beat Michael Carter-Williams in the race to Rookie of the Year. The Philadelphia 76ers guard is averaging 16.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 1.9 steals per game, and while it's true he's playing more minutes than Oladipo is on the league's fastest-paced team, voters are unlikely to weigh those two factors when they cast their ballots.
Pelton, for his part, makes a case for Brooklyn Nets center Mason Plumlee, who's making positive contributions for a playoff team while leading all rookies in wins above replacement, win shares, and Player Efficiency Rating.
Regardless of who wins the award, it's clear that Orlando picked a player who contributed immediately, and positively, with the potential to grow in future seasons. That's a win in any Draft, even as one as moribund as the 2013 one has proven to be so far.